A few months ago, I was consulting a client on their brand message and LinkedIn strategy when they, paused, mid-conversation and said with exasperation, “I just feel like (name of his “competition”) has already dominated this space. I feel like we do the same exact thing and he’s already blown up on LinkedIn. How in the world will I even compete?”
My heart hurt a little at the words. I could hear how defeated and scared he felt and how badly he wants to connect with clients to do the work he loves. From my perspective, it was clear:
This guy has endless know-how, tons of experience, MOUNDS of education in the space, and a calm and steady demeanor that would make even the most anxious client open up and trust his process. And here we were, in the middle of a not-so-cheap brand consultation, focusing precious time on the great things about his competition instead of him.
Don’t get me wrong here, a key part of any brand assessment is being aware of your competition and their offerings, but it should serve strictly to inform you, NOT to have you DWELL. Dwelling on your competition can lead to a defeatist mentality and foster anxiety as you try to promote your brand and message.
Of course, there are helpful quotes like:
…And while they are lovely mantras, I find I need something a bit more prescriptive in my own moments of feeling “less than” my competition.
So, here’s a more hands-own remedy if you find yourself stuck in the comparison game.
1. Approach things with a growth mindset.
First things first here—let’s get our mind right with the actual reality of the situation. There are over 575 million users on LinkedIn. Let me say that again: THERE ARE OVER 575 million users on LinkedIn. Even if there are 5,000 people who do EXACTLY what you do, that means each of you has a pool of about 115,000 folks to work with.
Now, look, I know what you’re going to say, “That’s oversimplified. All those users aren’t my target market.” I know, but I also doubt there are 5,000 people doing EXACTLY what you do HOW you do, and I can almost guarantee of those 5,000 not even 100 are showing up on LinkedIn every day to build their brand. My takeaway of this mental exercise is still the same: THERE IS SO MUCH BUSINESS TO GO AROUND. So, exhale for a moment looking at the sheer mathematics of market opportunity here.
Another grounding, logical, semi-obvious but sometimes-forgotten reassurance? If there are a lot of other people out there doing what you do, that means there is market demand. Do you know how many social media firms exist? How many freelancers? How many digital marketers? How many LinkedIn trainers and coaches? I exist in one of the most competitive fields, and I enjoy that. Why? Because it reminds me how many people NEED the service.
2. Get clear about your values.
Ok, so, now we are a bit more relaxed knowing that numbers are working in our favor. Let’s move into part two: Distinguish yourself through your values.
Here’s the deal, folks: People like to do business with people they know, like, and trust. And what facilitates know, like, and trust? A shared set of values. Think about your friends, your partner, your best clients, and other individuals you actually enjoy spending time with. I am willing to wager it’s because you all share similar values. Note that I didn’t say similar personalities or upbringings, I said similar VALUES.
For me, my top values are FREEDOM, GROWTH, FUN/HUMOR, and SENSE OF BELONGING. I create content around these values all the time, and it’s actually my “value-oriented” posts that convert more than my tactical ones.
So, even if you’re competition does exactly what you do, they may have different value sets. That’s great! They’ll connect with people who share their values, and you connect/attract people who share yours. Need help? MaryBeth Hyland’s Life Lens Workshop and Insight Timer Course “Knowing and Living Your Values” will help.
3. Share about YOUR life.
Great, so you’re clear on your values. Now start sharing behind-the-scenes moments of your life that demonstrate these.
People bond through stories and shared experiences, and this is something that is unique to every single one of us. So, get out in front of it. It’s a great differentiator.
Here’s the good news about this part as it relates to your competition: Only YOU have lived your unique story. Only YOU have dealt with your specific setbacks and learning lessons. Here’s an example: When I was 14 years old, I had Bell’s Palsy, a traumatic, semi-rare paralysis of one side of your face that can leave you with residual effects. In my case, my left eye is a bit more closed than my right, especially when I smile or talk. One of the students in our LinkedIn training program was nervous about getting a new headshot for his profile because, he too, suffered from facial paralysis. I told him my backstory and why it was incredibly hard for me to create videos on social media at first because of the paralysis. This shared story created a foundation of trust between us that probably wouldn’t have happened with another social media consultant who didn’t experience paralysis. I love talking to this student. I find comfort in connecting with him and I believe he feels the same.
4. Record videos!
Speaking of—record videos! Especially if your competition is not. There is no better way to convey your personality than using videos, and like your values and your personal story, people will connect with you because of it.
Maybe your competition is super blunt and curses a lot, and you’re more quiet, calming and methodical. Great, let people who respond to dominant coaching flock to them, and you connect with the ones who value a more soothing sounding board. Whatever the case may be, video will help you demonstrate this faster than any other medium out there.
5. Go back to basics.
When in doubt, go back to basics. In our effort to keep up with the competition, I witness a lot of people lose sight of their zone of genius and their proven methodology because they’re in search of some new concept, tool, or approach that will make them novel. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be improving or adapting; after all, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” I’m just saying that in your pursuit of growth, don’t move away from your roots or the things that you do exceptionally well for the sake of trying to outdo your competition.
What are the things that people tell you you’re naturally good at? What can you do with your eyes closed? What kind of work feels like “flow” to you? When you’re operating in your zone of genius, I assure you that you won’t be worried about your competition; instead, you’ll be peacefully producing.
I think the big takeaway here is the following:
“No one is you, and that is your power.”
Instead of worrying about someone else’s “theme-ness,” look at tactical ways (like the ones outlined above) that you can continually communicate your “you-ness” in your marketing and on LinkedIn. There will always be people who value your unique story and approach more than you know, and that, my friend, is something to be inspired by when you’re stuck.